Thursday, March 26, 2015

Signs of spring...

We still have a LOT of snow on the ground, but it is melting at a rapid rate. And nothing could make me happier! This morning when I did chores it was 36 degrees. It felt like a tropical heat wave. I didn't have to wear my lined overalls, OR gloves or a hat. A true delight.

Yesterday I groomed little Flirt, the toy poodle.



Then I took all that clean, fluffy hair of hers and put it in a suet cage. Next I hung it by the bird feeders.



In past years I have hung nesting material out for the birds,but never saw them take any. However, within moments of hanging this offering out several birds checked it out, and one sweet Chickadee grabbed a beak-full of fluff and headed off to a nearby tree. The thought of little nests lined in soft, clean fur makes me smile.

The change of seasons is finally here, and that is a lot to be happy about.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The art of gift giving...

My birthday and our 31st wedding anniversary is coming right up. I thought a nice ring might be a fun gift and got niece Aimee on the job looking for one. She has her finger firmly on the pulse of where to find fabulous vintage jewelry. She sent fun ideas to Chris. He wasn't convinced that vintage jewelry was an appropriate gift for me. He had other plans.

Yesterday he came home and had the most delighted look on his face. "Tomorrow you and I are going for a drive. I found you the perfect 'birthdaversary' gift." I was intrigued. I worked a few hours this morning, and when I got done I changed into warm clothes, and strapped on sturdy boots and we were off. We stopped en route for a nice lunch out, then continued along windy country roads until we came to dairy cow farm. It was then that I knew...



He had found me calf hutches! Calf hutches are used on dairy farms to house baby cows. They are molded plastic of some kind, lightweight, portable, and useful for so many things. I bought one a few years ago and have found many ways to use it. At various times mine has housed pigs, meat chickens, goats and ducks. I have often wished I had more than one, and we have been looking to buy another for a couple of years. They are not readily available. But he had managed to hunt some down, and arranged to buy me two. Now I have housing for piglets this spring, and for the meat chicks that I plan to raise, as well. Bonus points for creativity, Chris! (I might buy myself a vintage ring!)

After we got home from our adventure I took Ziva for a play date at my friends house. I was glad I had my camera with me, because this guy greeted me and made me laugh out loud.



He was strutting around, gobbling and making his head change colors. There was other pretty poultry, too, enjoying the fact that though it is unseasonably cold, there was some open ground.



My friends husband just finished building her this fabulous coop for her turkeys, ducks and chickens.






While the dogs played...



I checked out the sheep.



They are due to begin lambing in a couple of weeks. I bet they'll be glad. I bet they'll wish they had a cozy calf hutch to hang out in, too.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Univited guests...



As I have previously mentioned, I derive a lot of joy from feeding the wild birds, and seeing them just outside my window. Many people who feed birds become annoyed when squirrels invade the feeders, because they eat a LOT. I have very few squirrels here, probably because our yard is mostly open, with few trees. But this winter has been so hard that one or two little fuzzy gray rodents have begun to sneak in for snacks. I don't really begrudge them the meal... I hate to see a hungry animal. And look at those furry ears and bright eyes. As rodents go, these are pretty darn appealing.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ordering chicks...

The order for the spring chicks is going in today!
I will be getting 25 Cornish cross chicks. These are "dinner chickens." I am also ordering new laying hens, or "breakfast chickens," and am quite excited about it. I will be trying a whole new type, called Light Brahma's. When they are grown up they will look like this:



It will be fun to have new birds! This guy wont know what to think:



This diminutive dude is "Mr. Silly," our rooster. In the past, roosters at FairWinds have all wanted to kill me. Mr. Silly is well behaved. But he has a problem. He's really too small to "get busy" with the big hens. He had one lovely little Silky hen, but she died recently. Poor Mr. Silly tries to woo the big girls, but you can almost hear them laugh at him as they strut away on their long legs. I'm going to have to try to find him a few Silky hens of his own.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Some spring...



I've been hanging on the my late aunt Mary Lou's last words lately, "The spring will come again." We've had a little melting weather and the snow drifts have diminished a bit, and that seemed hopeful. Also, Chris bought me a huge pot of daffodils, and nothing says spring quite like those happy, sunshine colored blossoms.

Then this morning I awoke to more snow. Big, heavy, wet flakes. And there is a nasty, biting wind howling around the place. My spirits plummeted a bit. But when I look around there are signs that Lou was right.



That is the top a wicker lawn chair you see, emerging slightly from it's deep bed of snow. And that second picture? It is the edge of our picnic table, peeking out.



Although the turkeys that trotted up the house at dawn were frosted in new snow, the storm stopped far short of what was predicted, and tomorrow is supposed to be in the high 30's, which means more melting will happen.



While my friend Chez in Indiana and my friend Debi in Georgia post pictures of blooming crocus and roses, respectively, my poor climbing rose is a pathetic ice bound thing, looking quite dead. I hope it isn't.



The bird feeders are still very popular, as you can see by all the little birdie foot prints on my deck. And this saucy little Red Breasted Nuthatch is a recent arrival to the place. I had not seen one all winter, and am enjoying having him around. He is quite bold, zooming past my head while I replenish the seed supply. I've also had some Pine Siskin's for the first time since last year,and some other birds I cannot readily identify. I welcome them all.



Luna goat has had several very good days. She is still not eating as much as I'd like her to, but she is up, bright eyed and active. She has even had some feisty head butting contests with the other goats. When she is still we can see movement on both sides of her belly... a kid or kids squirming about. And that is an excellent sign that spring will come again.




Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What a difference a bath makes...!

The two little hen ducks that I paid $5.00 for at the livestock auction (read previous post) were in sad shape. The first clue was how terrible they smelled. They were in cardboard box from the auction, and they made the car smell simply fowl, (pun intended!) When I got them home and put them in a cage for the night, I could see, as well as smell, how dirty they were. The next day, when I let them out of the cage and into the poultry yard the sun showed how the poor things were crusted in filth, and their feathers were all clumpy, dark and dingy. I filled two large water pans with warm water and stood back to watch them. My other ducks hop right in for a nice bath, but these poor girls didn't seem to know what to do with such riches. They dipped their heads, over and over, and splashed their chests a bit, but from their shoulders back they were still grimy.



You can see how clean and sleek the other ducks look in comparison. The new ducks feathers look wet, but they are not. Just very dirty.

Today I filled a larger container, about 3 feet long, with 10 gallons or so of lovely warm water. I hoped they would hop in and get a good all-over washing. I was busy working all day, but popped out to check on them on my lunch break. All the birds were milling around happily, scratching in the hay I scattered over the snow, snacking from the food pan and dabbling in the water bowls.

By this evening the little brown hen ducks looked much, MUCH better. They must have figured out how to get in the water. I wish I could have seen it, I bet they were happy things. Their feathers are rather tattered and sad looking, but much cleaner. When they moult and grow lovely new feathers they will look quite pretty.



I suspect these girls have spent their lives in a wire cage. The webs of their feet look sore and frayed. I doubt they had room to move or water to enjoy. That makes me sad. But it is a joy to see them explore their new world, fill their crops with good food and splash to their hearts delight in the water pans. At dusk they look awfully tired when they head into the duck house to snuggle in with the other ducks on clean shavings. When the snow is gone and they can meander over the pasture, and play in the little seasonal "pond" we have, it will be fun to see them love life at FairWinds!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Auction...

Months ago my friend Marion asked me to mark today on my calendar so that we could attend a livestock auction. We've been talking about going for a couple of years, but never had the time. I dutifully penciled in the day, and by mid morning we were off. In about an hour we reached the place.

First there was a general auction. I have never attended an auction in my life, so ducked quietly into the building, all eyes, surveying the scene. The first thing I noticed was that there were a lot of beards. And almost everyone was wearing Carhart jackets. I left mine at home because it is strongly impregnated with the scent of barn. That certain odor that speaks of pine shavings and horse sweat and goat drench. I rather like it, but was afraid it would be offensive to some. I need not have worried. I would have fit right in with this crowd.



They auctioned off antique things and junky things. Old shutters, kitchen gadgets, boxes of cameras, vintage games. The building was warmed with a big wood stove and the air was redolent with the smell of greasy fried potatoes and hot dogs and beans and sizzling burgers.





In the afternoon the livestock auction began. That was the real reason for our visit. There were clean, airy holding pens for the animals.



There were bottle baby calves and lots and lots of goats. A herd of Katahdin sheep, two big adult cows, a totally enormous sow pig and two smaller boars.



The auctioneer was quick and funny, and clearly knew animals. The animal handlers were efficient yet kind.



Then there was this guy. I couldn't stop watching him.


He was in front of the auction stand,surrounded by piles of boxes, carriers and cages. Inside those things were rabbits, pea fowl, chickens, roosters, and a few ducks. He lined up a row of boxes on a long table, and would call up to the auctioneer something like: "Lot number 456. He would open the box, peer inside, then hold up an animal, "A fine big hen. Heavy! Young, too." Then the bidding would commence. He'd stuff the hapless creature back into its box, and peer inside the next one. One after another the animals emerged into the light. Then each was sold to the highest bidder.



I needed a few new female ducks. My current flock consists of three drakes (males) and two hens (females.) The ratio is not good. The drakes are very romantic and the hens get tired. So when a box with two brown, mixed breed hen ducks appeared, we bid on them. I had my number ready!



The ducks were mine... for a mere $5.00!

We stayed until the last creature was destined for its next home. Then, two ducks richer and $5 poorer, we headed home.



The ducks are currently tucked into a clean cage in the garage. They were very hungry and terribly thirsty. They are also dirty and smelly, I don't think they've been able to take a bath in a long, long time. I am looking forward to introducing them to the rest of the flock, where they can take a little splash in the warm water of the water pan and begin to look forward to their new life waddling around the meadow at FairWinds. I think they are lucky ducks.